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Issue 5 2014 - Freight Business Journal

///FREIGHT SOFTWARE GUIDE Internet and e-Freight - plus ca change...

A look at last year’s Freight Software Guide brings on a feeling of deja vu: we covered the growth of Internet-based services, the barriers to the take up of e-Freight and the need for visibility in the supply chain. While


some developments in the use of technology in freight, the main issues which need addressing today to develop and use safe, efficient, cost-effective services;


Internet-based (still


progress of e-Freight; and the continuing need for visibility in the supply chain. And all three are tied

together. Visibility requires the capability for shippers, forwarders, carriers and other 3PLs to be able to access data about their consignments and

their business 24/7 - which leads us to the Internet and to the need for better mobile applications. Visibility is also the driver for and the benefit of e-Freight: electronic documents and data can be viewed instantly, improving visibility. Individual companies are

embracing all aspects of IT and exploiting both the Internet and mobile technology to come up with innovative ways of working. Airlines such as Air

France-KLM, IAG Group,

Lufthansa and Ethihad have all been pushing e-Freight over the last year, with electronic documents ranging from invoices to airwaybills. NYK Line is believed to be the first container line to carry cargo under an electronic Bill of Lading (see the regular IT

column in this issue). Ports, and now airports, are developing and enhancing computerised systems for the identification of vehicles - and even drivers - delivering and collecting cargo. Transport companies such as Norbert Dentressangle are following the parcel industry by installing electronic POD systems for business-to- business cargo delivery. Customs and other

organisations can speed up the flow of cargo if they have relevant information in advance. At the same time, the ability to obtain the right data allows government bodies to

identify any shipment

that could be dangerous – for example,. batteries in an airfreight container - or which masks terrorist activities. The problem is that with

so many different parties involved, creating a unified, cohesive system for just one transport sector, let alone a multi-modal

solution, is

almost impossible. Add to that the lumbering tortoise- like pace of most government bodes and the reluctance of some countries to even accept electronic documents and it is easy to see why it seems to take at least five years of talking before anything gets done. There are projects out there

to try to speed things up. The Dutch government has supported NLIP, a country- wide initiative aimed at linking up all members of the cargo community to enable everyone involved in any movement to speak to each other, access data and produce documents. Launched a year ago, the project directors claim to have several new examples of paperless trading, but have not released details. IATA’s support of e-Freight

has given it impetus, although it admitted as recently as this spring that only 13.4% of AWBs are electronic. The EU is also trying to promote the use of technology to improve cargo flows, visibility, safety and security, with projects such as Blue Belt, which aims to create an e-Manifest, and eMar, which is addressing shipping issues such as fleet management, load planning and crewing. Unfortunately, most new

initiatives come with their own baggage. Shippers objected to the original design of Blue Belt because it would make VAT refunds, normally paid out when a vessel leaves port, provisional. The EU’s Union Customs Code - known as the single window and due to take effect on 1 May 2016 at the earliest

- has shippers,

forwarders and their software suppliers

all complaining of

being saddled with another two or more years of uncertainty. Will there still be national customs clearances processes or will everyone have to dance to the EU’s tune? How long will goods be allowed to be stored temporarily, in port, for example? And in Britain, when will HMRC replace its ageing

Chief clearance system? Chief as it stands will not be able to accommodate UCC entries very easily. But even if

the UCC had

gone live, Chief’s replacement was up and running and paperless projects around the world had moved far beyond the pilot stage, there would still be two huge, almost insurmountable, difficulties to overcome before the freight industry could truly say it had its finger on the technological button. The myriad of systems, protocols, data formats and IT processes which governs the technological underpinning of cargo around the world makes it hard for systems to talk to each other - even with the Internet. Time and again, we hear that projects have been delayed because of a lack of standards which make it impossible for one computer to read and translate data sent from another, without a human conduit to do the translation. Maybe the very fact that

there are so many parties in the movement of any

one consignment makes harmonisation an impossible dream. But this brings us to the second huge difficulty to overcome: the sheer number of software companies tripping over themselves to develop a ‘solution’ for the same problem. Take the e-Bill of Lading. No one has developed industry standards;

instead, we have

Bolero producing one e-B/L and essDOCS another. At least the airfreight community has IATA spearheading the development of industry- wide standards, for use by all software companies who write systems for airlines and forwarders. You can’t blame anyone for

wanting to make a buck. But the proliferation of systems - and even those based on ‘open’ standards aren’t always compatible - means that every carrier, forwarder and shipper has to use different formats for different trading partners. And somehow, that just seems a relic of the paper-bound world everyone is trying to leave behind.


EU-funded projects: Logical, covering parts of Germany, northern Italy and Eastern Europe. Aimed to create open IT system to enable 3PLs, shippers and other relevant parties to share information and create documents. Blue Belt, designed to simplify customs formalities and develop an e-Manifest. eMar, part of the EU Digital Agenda, to address shipping issues such as crewing, load planning, fleet management, ship condition monitoring, integration with port systems.

IATA’s e-Freight: Airlines Luſthansa and forwarders Ceva all

publicly announced commitment to converting all AWBs to electronic format.

Abu Dhabi creates its first airport community system and the

Chinese airfreight community goes digital by implementing Unisys’ comprehensive suite of cargo-related products.

Antwerp implements a new container release system. Mobile applications developed for road hauliers - not only for

electronic POD, but to help them find truck stops. Forwarding soſtware pioneer Impatex sold, 33 years aſter Peter

Day founded the company, to Descartes. Gordon Tuſt takes over from Ken Gower as the chairman of the

Association of Freight Soſtware Suppliers.

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